Nov. 26, 2004
By BRUCE MEADOWS
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Catherine Sigler and her Santa Clara University teammates have had a week to think about their amazing upset of top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA soccer playoffs.
The ex-Ursuline defensive star figures that's a good thing as the Broncos prepare for a Saturday match that could send them to the NCAA Final Four.
"We've had a week to come down," said Sigler, who turned 21 on Thanksgiving. "I think we needed that... it was an incredible game."
The Broncos (17-4-2), seeded No. 16 although ranked fourth in the nation prior to the playoffs, scored a goal 31 seconds into a "golden goal" overtime period at Chapel Hill, N.C., to stun the Tar Heels (20-1-2), who saw a 49-match unbeaten streak come to an end.
"When she (senior forward Megan Kakadelas) scored, there was this moment where it seemed nobody moved or said anything," recalled Sigler. "We were all listening for a whistle but then we thought, 'Oh. my God,' and everybody rushed out on the field."
The Broncos try to extend their odyssey in a quarterfinal match Saturday at Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium when they host unseeded Illinois (15-5-2), which beat Nebraska in the quarterfinals, 2-1.
"We don't know much about Illinois, other than this is the first time they've made it this far," said Sigler. "But we are not going to look past them."
She said Bronco coach Jerry Smith, who has been at Santa Clara 18 years and won a national title in 2001, stressed that point in practice.
Smith is married to U.S. women's star Brandi Chastain, who trains with the Broncos.
"He told us we cannot underestimate anybody," said Sigler. "He told us other teams will be thinking this is a perfect time to play Santa Clara."
Sigler may not be looking past Illinois, but she might be sneaking a peek at the Notre Dame-Portland game Saturday.
If the Broncos and Irish win, they meet in the first round of the Final Four at Cary, N.C. Dec. 3.
Sigler was successfully recruited by Notre Dame, but left after her freshman year.
"It was a personal thing... the team chemistry wasn't right for me," said Sigler, who still was named to the Big East Conference All-Rookie team.
She decided to look elsewhere the following spring and after getting a release from Notre Dame, sent out information to 10 schools.
It didn't take Smith long to respond... Santa Clara and Notre Dame had both enthusiastically recruited Sigler.
Initially, while she liked Smith, "Santa Clara seemed so close," explained Sigler.
As a sophomore, she started seven matches, played in 13, and missed three with injury.
This year she didn't start at first but earned a spot in the starting lineup after three matches and remained there.
Sigler comes from a long line of defenders... her older sister Brittany and older brother C.J. both played sweeper, and her younger brother Patrick is a sophomore sweeper for Cardinal Newman, which won the North Coast Section 3A championship this season.
"I like defense because I'm talkative," said Sigler. "Patrick just wants to be like me."
Sigler is known to friends, teammates and family as "Cat," which, she explains, "kind of suits my personality."
She's anxious to take the field at 1 p.m. Saturday, knowing the Broncos are a win away from the Final Four.
And if they play Notre Dame, Sigler will probably mark Irish forward Katie Thorlakson.
"She's one of my very best friends and the best forward in the country," said Sigler. "That would be awesome."
So was that win over the Tar Heels, but now that's history.
"I'll never forget that feeling," she said. "But now we have to focus on Illinois."
Former Santa Rosa High goalie standout Carissa Amaral, a freshman, is on the SCU roster.
Sigler isn't the only former Empire player competing in the NCAA women's playoffs.
Kelli Smith, a standout defender at Maria Carrillo has been a four-year starter at University of Washington, which plays in an Elite Eight match today at Princeton.
The 15th-seeded Huskies are 16-4-1, coming off a 1-0 win last weekend against Maryland.
Coach Leslie Gallimore called Smith "the most competitive player on our team."